From on the ground in Japan, here’s a special preview of the second produce show promoted by Sareee, complete with words from the joshi superstar herself.
TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY BY ISSA MARIE [except for official show graphics]
Following the success of Sareee-ISM Chapter 1, a complete sellout with a high streaming rate, Sareee is ready to do it again. This time, at Sareee-ISM Chapter 2, she is giving fans the best of the Western and Japanese styles by forming a pro wrestling dream team with the former IWGP Women’s Champion, KAIRI.
While in Japan, I had the opportunity to speak with Sareee about Sareee-ISM Chapter I and choosing KAIRI as her partner for this latest round.
“It had been a while since I last wrestled in Japan … wrestled Chihiro Hashimoto,” Sareee reflects. “Unfortunately, I was not victorious in my triumphant return match, but not being able to win fueled me. I have now made it my personal goal to defeat Hashimoto in our next encounter.”
Sareee is speaking of the main event of her first produce show. Aside from the headline match not ending in her favor, the card was a resounding success on all counts. “That night, I was able to use all of the knowledge I gained here in Japan and overseas,” she tells me. “And I am very happy with the results and success of Sareee-ISM Chapter I.”
Loss aside, the overall experience of the first Sareee-ISM show was all the encouragement she needed to want to do it again. But why only a four-match card?
“I believe that in pro wrestling, quality outweighs the quantity of the matches ,” said Sareee. “Fans pay to watch the best pro wrestling.” And ain’t that the truth!
A higher number of matches doesn’t necessarily translate to selling more tickets. However, I would say that teaming with KAIRI will certainly help. Smiling, Sareee explained that “for the second show, I wanted to show the fans the best of both worlds [Western and Japanese styles of pro wrestling] and I can only do that with KAIRI; we are the only ones that can do it!” While their respective experiences were very different, both Sareee and KAIRI worked tirelessly to incorporate their deep-rooted joshi training into their sports entertainment wrestling while under the WWE umbrella.
Headlined by the tag team match featuring Sareee and KAIRI, Sareee-ISM Chapter 2 will stream live worldwide via sareeelive.com: Friday August 4, 2023, 7:00 p.m. JST/6:00 a.m. EST/3:00 a.m. PST.
The match card is one you will not want to miss:
Opening Match Chi Chi vs Ibuki Hoshi
Second Match Kaoru Ito & Kohaku vs Jaguar Yokota & Kizuna
Semi-Main Event Miyuki Takase vs Mio Momono
Main Event Sareee & Kairi vs Arisa Nakajima & Takumi Iroha
I didn’t need much convincing to watch this show But, if you’re still unsure, Sareee has a message for you:
“I hope that all fans around the world stream this second chapter, where the beauty of Strong Style is showcased by the wrestlers that came before me, and the future of Joshi. This match card is a dream come true, from America to Japan, WWE/NXT to Sareee-ISM, KAIRI and I want to show you the best of pro wrestling of both worlds. Thank you for your continued support! I look forward to the day we can meet again!”
And stay tuned for Part II of this interview, where Sareee and I talk about her typical day … and I share what it was like to watch her train with her mentor, Kauro Ito!
How Actwres girl’Z Continues To Shape Joshi Pro Wrestling
TEXT & PHOTOS* BY ISSA MARIE
(*except where noted)
IN PRO WRESTLING, the desire for viewing alternatives may be at an all-time high. Fans and analysts consistently speak on the need for promoters and wrestlers to provide something truly different. And yet, in Japan, you will notice that most companies share a similar structure in their training and business models … and that is why Actwres girl’Z stands apart.
Sixteen years ago, AWG President Keiji Sakaguchi created one of the most innovative concepts in the industry: a school and promotion that specialized entirely in training actresses and idols in the art of pro wrestling. His vision was to appeal to a fan base not traditionally drawn to the world of wrestling. And he wanted to create an alternative that would open opportunities for women in the field. To his credit, President Sakaguchi has succeeded on both counts!
While in Japan, I was invited to attend an Actwres girl’Z training session, to get a better perspective of who these folks are and what they do. Immediately, what stood out to me was the shared work ethic and how welcoming the trainers were to prospective talent. That day, three new recruits participated in their first training session, and the rest of the team ensured they were properly integrated and included.
And that is what makes Actwres girl’Z so special: a group of women working together, building a space where everyone is welcomed regardless of their level of training; where the only requirement is to be willing to work hard and give it your best.
Understanding that most of the newer recruits have actual jobs, the promotion is very flexible with its schedule, to ensure every member is able to meet their training commitments. I believe ACT (Yasukawa) said it best during her interview: “All of us are professional actresses. Every expression, every move, we put our soul and heart to entertain the audience. The organization is still very new when compared to the other promotions, but there is so much potential and talent in every member; everyone has what it takes to become a superstar. And, when we do come out to the states as a group, I want the U.S. fans already looking forward to Actwres girl’Z.”
What distinctly separates Actwres girl’Z from all other Japanese joshi organizations is its ability to recruit and maintain new talent throughout the year. The strength of Actwres girl’Z lies in the system of building these budding performers into diverse professionals who wrestle and perform across various media. Aside from in-ring action, the talent make TV appearances, host radio programs. They participate in magazine and online interviews, modeling, live talk shows, and other individualized events.
Since 2007, Keiji Sakaguchi has created opportunities: training, managing, producing, and transforming actresses, idols, models, and athletes. And, in doing so, he markedly changed the landscape of women’s wrestling in Japan, founding the platforms that launched some of the most recognized names in joshi, allowing them to thrive and even reshape the wrestling industry: Kairi Hojo (KAIRI), Saori Anou, Natsumi Maki (Natsupoi), Himeka, Tam Nakano, Miyuki Takase, SAKI, Rico Kawabata, Act Yasukawa, Yuna Manase, and Fuuka. Mr. Sakaguchi is responsible for the exchange program that allowed many of his young talent to wrestle in various organizations, where they established themselves as superstars.
In 2015, Actwres girl’Z’ event promotion and talent management saw the creation of its first branded group, called “Beginning.” Through TV and media exposure, many prospects applied and joined from all over Japan. By demand, Actwres girl’Z added another brand, “COLOR’S,” in 2019. [Editor’s note: Representatives of this group notably went on to compete in Stardom throughout 2022, as AWG alum SAKI continued the brand as a traveling unit of wrestling freelancers.]
Before long, both brands grew to their maximum capacity. And, in December 2021, Actwres girl’Z retired both brands, with a plan to renew and reinvent its system into more broadly appealing and acceptable style.
In 2022, Actwres girl’Z relaunched and reorganized, splitting the company into “ACTRING” and “ACTwrestling”—distinct brands where the wrestlers are able to portray different roles and styles, showcasing their diverse abilities.
“ACTRING” is a theatrical experience, using the ring as a performance stage where plots and anime storyboards play a big role. Pro wrestling (moves & bouts) are incorporated into the scripted battle-act scenes. Actwres girl’Z performers play characters specific to ACTRING, with new shows premiering monthly.
In contrast, “ACTwrestling” is focused on solid pro wrestling shows with minimum staging and no elaborate setups. The stars perform as themselves (read: their joshi selves), and their goal is to connect with the fans while gaining Actwres girl’Z “points.”
A promotion that runs under its own rules and regulations, ACTWrestling is creating a new and true form of sports entertainment … and a brand-new vibe. At times, match cards are decided by fan votes and through the Actwres girl’Z point system. The Actwres girl’Z stars collect credit points by fan votes, individual ticket reservation sales, merchandise sales, participation in wrestling practices, number of media exposures, luck, etc. And their rankings help determine future show bookings.
Presently, the current Actresgirlz roster is made up mostly of newer and younger stars: Misa Matsui, Kouki, Sumikawa, Marino Saihara, Chika Gotoh, Natsuki, Naru, Chiaki, Iwai Kyoka, Marina Hamada, with many more to debut, under the mentoring and guidance of veterans Miku Aono, Act Yasukawa, Mari Sakamoto, Mii, and Yumi Agawa.
Now, international fans can experience the show across the promotion’s multiple outlets:
But that’s not all! Follow along with me on this website, as I take you through a journey of discovery—or, if you have been following AWG for a while, rediscovery—in a series of upcoming blog posts. Stay tuned for individual spotlights on the roster members and so much more!
RESTRUCTURED AND REVITALIZED: How Actwres girl’Z Continues To Shape Joshi Pro Wrestling
Following her stay in WWE NXT, “Sarray” is gone … but Sareee has returned to Japan to rejoin the fight!
TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY BY ISSA MARIE
IN MARCH 2023, Sareee confirmed her departure from WWE, where she had competed on the NXT brand for the better part of three years under the name of “Sarray.” Now, she has returned to her original home of Japan with a reignited purpose: to show what pro wrestling, from her perspective, is all about.
Ahead of her much-anticipated produce show, Sareee took the time from her busy schedule to meet up with PWI Japan correspondent Issa Marie at TERA CAFÉ SHIEN ZOJOJI in Tokyo, for a special, in-person interview.
“Pro wrestling is a fighting art,” Sareee told PWI. “Strong showing between opponents. And, after two years of not being able to show it, my goal is to reintroduce the fans to my core fighting style.”
Though she impressed sizable, global audiences with her spirited performances on NXT, longtime fans of Sareee knew that she was not being utilized to her full potential. Prior to signing with WWE in early-2020, and relocating to the U.S. months later, this prodigy wrestler seemed destined to carry on the legendary, traditional Japanese style of All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling. She debuted at age 15 for World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana, the only organization to carry on All Japan Women’s training system under the tutelage of joshi greats Jaguar Yokota, Kyoko Inoue, Kaoru Ito, and Nanae Takahashi. She pushed her body to the limit, learning foundational pro wrestling moves that require long years of discipline to truly master.
In doing so, Sareee became “the last surviving hope” of joshi strong style wrestling. After six impressive years with Diana, including a tag title reign with Yokota, she joined up with Takahashi’s burgeoning SEAdLINNNG promotion. At Meiko Satomura’s Sendai Girls, she battled Chihiro Hashimoto in a series of hard-hitting and globally acclaimed matches. After returning to Diana in 2018, she finally claimed her home promotion’s top single championship … twice.
So impressive was Sareee that she was publicly applauded by her wrestling idol, Antonio Inoki, gifted a mask by Satoru Sayama (Tiger Mask), and given the blessing of Masahiro Chono to use his STF hold. It is unsurprising, then, that Sareee was recruited by WWE, where she would spend two years of her career learning the entertainment aspect of the sport she held so dearly.
While signing a WWE contract is a lifelong goal for many grapplers, for Sareee, it was an exciting new challenge. “At the time I was recruited, I was unfamiliar with the company,” she admits. “I was told I would be able to be a similar version of the pro wrestler I was in Japan … however, it wasn’t long before everything changed.”
Often working alongside newer and less experienced talent, the NXT talent known as Sarray was notably more subdued than the fiery ring warrior who had initially grabbed the attention of the industry leader. Her look and on-screen persona also changed, much to the chagrin of longtime supporters.
“While it was not what I had expected, I have no regrets,” Sareee reflected. “That time in WWE, I was able to learn about the entertainment side of the ‘industry’ that is not as prominent in most Japanese promotions.”
Called “The Sun Goddess” for her explosiveness and charismatic in-ring presence, Sareee speaks kindly of her former coworkers. “I really enjoyed working with Zoey Stark and Tiffany (Stratton) during my time in NXT and training with Franky Monet (AEW’s Taya Valkyrie),” she said. “We (Franky and I) wanted to have a match on TV because we had great chemistry when we trained and practiced together. We even went to management to see if it would be possible, but it did not happen.”
Sadly, there were other matches Sareee looked forward to that were, for various reasons, not able to take place. “When I first learned about NXT, I saw a match of Ember Moon (AEW’s Athena), and I was amazed by her,” she recalls. “We were supposed to have a match, but it was canceled.”
Similarly, planned bouts with Toni Storm and Meiko Satomura were called off. If given the chance, Sareee would still like to wrestle these women. She also expressed interest in facing record-setting WWE Raw champion Bianca Belair. “I am very curious about her strength, testing her abilities and her limits,” said Sareee.
Considering that she had strayed away from the big promotions while in Japan, it seems reasonable to wonder whether competing at NXT was ever in Sareee’s best interests. On the other hand, the move made perfect sense, given her desire to showcase her vision of pro wrestling on a worldwide platform. After all the unique challenges she has faced, we had to ask: Does “The Sun Goddess” have any advice for her Japanese peers who might be considering training and wrestling overseas?
“If there’s an opportunity to go, go for it!” she says. “Opportunities are few and far between [for us], so take advantage of them! Go for the experience!”
And that experience has inspired the 12-year veteran to produce her own card, Sareee-ISM, taking place on May 16, 2023, at Shinjuku Face event hall in Tokyo. The event will feature joshi wrestlers carrying on the torch of the traditional fighting art of Japanese women’s pro wrestling.
“I want to thank all of the international fans gained for their support, by performing and fighting in the style of pro wrestling that I have always believed in and love,” said Sareee. But, above all, she wants to be able to meet the high expectations that have been set.
“I received a lot of support and encouragement from the fans during my time with WWE, which helped me pull through during the hardest of times,” she told PWI. “I really appreciate them all, and want to give back to those who supported me, by being the best version of myself. I am very grateful for you all and look forward to seeing everyone again!
If you are not in Japan to watch Sareee-ISM Chapter 1, fret not, as the event will be streamed LIVE at https://sareeelive.com/
Note: The English Language Option can be found in its drop-down menu, top right). Start time is 7:00 p.m. local time, (6:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast, and 3:00 a.m. Pacific).
The match card for Sareee-ISM is as follows:
Opening Match Riko Kaiju (SEAdLINNNG) vs. Yurika Oka (Sendai Girls) 10-minute time limit
Second Match AKARI (Pure-J) & Arisa Nakajima (SEAdLINNG) vs. Ibuki Hoshi (Ice Ribbon) & Miyuki Takase (Freelancer) 20-minute time limit
Semi-Main Event Jaguar Yokota (Diana) & Nanae Takahashi (Freelance) vs. Kaoru Ito (Ito Dojo) & X [mystery competitor to be revealed at a later date] 30-minute time limit
Main Event Sareee vs Chihiro Hashimoto (Sendai Girls) 30-minute time limit
Dragongate’s Madoka Kikuta Gets Deja Vu, Challenges Shun Skywalker A Second Time
TEXT & PHOTOS BY ISSA MARIE
TWO YEARS TO the date of his last Open the Dream Gate challenge, Madoka Kikuta finds himself in familiar territory as he is, once again, challenging Shun Skywalker—the man he faced that fateful night for Dragongate’s top prize. And the self-proclaimed “Game Master” has not only reminded Kikuta of his inability to finish that match, he has also “demanded” that Kikuta earn the opportunity and privilege to face him.
Skywalker has put the Kikuta through the “SSW Quest,” a series of games designed to break Kituta’s will, prove that he is an unworthy contender, and eliminate the undeserving (in Shun’s estimation) D’Courage powerhouse. As of this writing, the games are still ongoing, but Kikuta has vowed “to not back down or run away, no matter what obstacle Shun puts in front of me.”
As the standout of the 2019 DG rookie class, Kikuta set himself apart from his classmates, partly due to his size. And not only his size, but, as Dragon Dia initially pointed out—and Dragongate’s Jae was gracious enough to translate for us—Kikuta’s “Pixar Mom” build. Shortly after aligning himself with the now-defunct R.E.D. unit, the young grappler (then dubbed “Hip Hop Kikuta”) challenged Skywalker at #DEADorALIVE2021. Skywalker, then the leader of MASQUERADE and the company’s youngest-ever Dream Gate champ, shut down Kikuta in a very short and career-derailing match.
Kikuta dislocated his shoulder early in the bout and would go on to miss an entire year of in-ring action. He would eventually make his return at #DEADorALIVE2022, teaming with his dojo classmate, Jacky “Funky” Kamei. This followed Kikuta’s rejection of SB KENTo’s offer to join Z-Brats, which had evolved out of the discontinued R.E.D. group.
The old “Hip Hop” was no more. Madoka Kikuta began his urgent quest to reset and restart his career. Dragongate fans all over the world were excited for his return. However, many of those fans were concerned when Kikuta showed a lack of confidence in some matches. It was as if something wasn’t clicking; like there was no “SPARKING (in his) CORE.” Thankfully, it wasn’t long before those missing pieces fell into place.
After months spent reacclimating himself to Dragongate, Kikuta offered a lending hand to D’Courage—the team of Dragon Dia and former Open the Dream Gate champion Yuki Yoshioka—as their enforcer, as he needed to prove that he belonged. And it wasn’t long before he won the Open the Twin Gate championship with Dragon Dia, stepping up to show what he was made of in Shingo Takagi’s return match at #FinalGate2021. More recently, Kikuta won the #ReyDeParejas2023 tournament with Yuki Yoshioka.
In the February 2023 edition of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, I wrote that Dragongate “…is the promotion where units are families, who will love, support, train, and encourage one another.” And the “BEST BOYS,” as I often refer to them, exemplify just that! This is a family made up of three men who want to create a new chapter in Dragongate history. In his own words, Kikuta is “here to kick ass.”
On the path of boosting his confidence and winning titles, Kikuta still felt a void—a feeling that his purpose had yet to be defined. To the surprise to no one paying close attention, a special return match last Christmas set his career path on the trajectory it is today. At #FinalGate2022, Kikuta teamed with YAMATO to face BxB Hulk and the returning Shingo Takagi. “Standing toe to toe with all of the participants in the match gave me confidence and reassurance in my abilities as a pro wrestler,” reflects Kikuta.
Madoka Kikuta originally chose to join Dragongate after seeing Uhaa Nation (now known as Apollo Crews), who became the talk of wrestling fans worldwide through his incredible mix of power and agility. “I was inspired by him,” says Kikuta. And, indeed, the two share similarities in power, strength, and in-ring abilities—the very qualities the rising Dragongate star wants to see fans associate with him.
Kikuta tells us he wants to experience lucha libre first-hand, as many Dragongate stars have. However, his recent overseas tour began with a two-day stop in Singapore, where his opponents learned the power of his mighty hip attack. “If the money is right, I am game to go anywhere and wrestle anyone,” he said.
So, what’s next for Madoka Kikuta and his D’Courage allies? “We are on a quest to hold all of the titles and be the unit that carries the new generation for DG,” Kikuta told PWI. “Don’t take your eyes off my ass!”
PWI will be present at Aichi Prefectural Gym on May 5, covering the action live. If you are in Japan, make your way to Nagoya to witness Dragongate’s first major event of 2023. If you can’t be there, you can still watch the action via the promotion’s streaming network at dragongate.live.
And don’t forget: Two days earlier, the company’s May 3 live event from Kyoto KBS Hall will stream for free on the Dragongate Network. No registration will be required to watch!
DESPITE HER YOUNG age (and two years missed due to early retirement), Stardom mainstay Hazuki has already created a glowing reputation amongst pro wrestling fans in all parts of the globe.
After returning to the ring and teaming with fellow Stardom vet Koguma to win the 2021 Goddesses of Stardom tag league tournament, this talented grappler out of Fukuoka, Japan, re-established herself as something of a tag team specialist. At the same time, the 25-year-old Hazuki remains a formidable challenger to any singles gold, memorably challenging Mercedes Mone for the IWGP Women’s title in a triple-threat at NJPW’s Sakura Genesis 2023.
Earlier this year, Hazuki was kind enough to answer some of our questions in writing via a translator. The exchange is included here.
PWI:Together with Koguma, you ranked #5 in the 2022 PWI “Tag Team” 100 list. How do you feel about FWC’s success and progress as a duo over that period?
HZK: I was extremely happy that FWC was ranked 5th in the world rankings, and I was even happier that we were ranked 1st amongst women. If we hadn’t made a comeback from our retirements, we wouldn’t have been in this ranking, so I’m really glad we made a comeback. FWC’s tag work is unmatched by any tag team, and it’s become our goal to aim even higher in the future.
PWI: Is your preparation for a big tag team bout different than for a singles match? If yes, how so?
HZK: Tag teams can make up for what each individual can’t do and help each other. When it comes to singles, it’s a battle of individual strength, so it’s different.
But, during the 5☆STAR Grand Prix tournament in 2022, I think everyone was able to see Hazuki’s individual strengths, and, because of that, I was able to think about how FWC should be as a tag team.
PWI: Do you have any interest in facing teams outside of Japan, perhaps from WWE, AEW, or IMPACT Wrestling?
HZK: I always want to fight with various tag teams. It’s difficult to make these matches, but I want to compete with various people around the world and see how good our tag team is.
As our tag name [Fukuoka Double Crazy] suggests, we are a crazy tag team in many ways, so we want to absorb various things from working with other tag teams and want fans to know more about our crazy nature.
PWI: You grew up a fan of WWE wrestlers Kelly Kelly and Nikki Bella. Do you think the so-called “Divas” era gets a bad rap, compared to the harder-hitting style we see in Japan or even WWE today?
HZK: Japanese pro wrestling and the Divas Era have different fighting styles, but I’m glad I fell in love with WWE and fell in love with the Divas division. Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Professional wrestling is interesting because there are various fighting styles, and, when I became a pro wrestler, I realized that even more.
PWI: While growing up and watching WWE, did you watch any WrestleMania shows/matches? If so, please share with us some of your favorites and what you most enjoyed about them.
HZK: I have been to see WWE Live Events in Japan. At that time, I was in the back rows at Ryogoku Kokugikan, so it was far from the ring. But I had made a John Cena sign and waved it around when he made his entrance.
When I was watching it on TV, I was interested in CM Punk and Randy Orton, and trying to adopt some of their styles to my own.
PWI: What do you think it is about these events, such as WrestleMania, Wrestle Kingdom, and Stardom Dream Queendom, that leaves fans with such lasting memories?
HZK: Professional wrestling is a job that lets us live our dreams. And so, we want to have an atmosphere that will make you excited, just by our entrances, before the match even starts. And we hope those emotions make your day better.
When I saw WWE live, even though they were professional wrestlers just like me, their auras were different, and I almost cried feeling like I was a fan again.
Now, it’s my turn to stand in the ring, so I’ll do my best every day to impress the fans and give them hope and courage.
Over WrestleMania Weekend, DDT Pro Wrestlers Battle Big Names From Game Changer Wrestling
Here’s What You Can Expect (In The Words Of The DDT Stars, Themselves!)
TEXT BY ISSA MARIE
FOUR YEARS AFTER taking over NYC and its streets, DDT Pro Wrestling does Hollywood in the only way it can. As part of The Collective, Dramatic Dream Team (DDT Pro), is returning to the U.S. to bring back its essence and wild uniqueness to North America. The promotion will present two highly anticipated shows: DDT Goes Hollywood (March 30) and GCW vs. DDT (March 31). And, if President Sanshiro Takagi, has his way, this two-day overseas tour will be the first of many of its kind.
I had prepared a lengthy dissertation as to why you should buy your tickets to the show before they are all gone; but instead, I’ll let the DDT roster coming to Hollywood do the honors themselves:
“It’s been two months since my last visit [to the U.S.’, so I hope to hear ‘welcome back’ chants, okay? MAO is back! I’m going to run wild! Look forward to the DDT style.” – MAO, who will be teaming with his ShunMAO partner, Shunma Katsumata, to take on Chris Brookes and Yoshihiko at DDT Goes Hollywood; then reuniting with his Moonlight Express partner, Mike Bailey, in a match versus the East West Express, Nick Wayne and Jordan Oliver, at GCW vs. DDT.
“I’m very glad to be able to take part in DDT’s Hollywood show! I’ll turn America into a sauna, so please give me your support! I hope you feel my NEPPOWER!” – Shunma Katsumata, who also teams with his frenemy, Chris Brookes, and Mizuki Watase to take on Second Gear Crew at GCW vs. DDT.
“I’ve been dreaming of wrestling in America ever since I was Universal champion! My dream! Wait for me, and please remember my overflowing NEPPOWER! Neppower is my fighting spirit!” – Yuki Ueno, who will be facing Konosuke Takeshita at DDT Goes Hollywood, following their time limit draw at Itabashi Green Hall back in January; and Joey Janela at GCW vs. DDT.
“DDT’s first Hollywood show! Everyone couldn’t come over, so I’ll do my best for the rest who couldn’t make it over to show the joys of DDT! Please enjoy the world of DDT☺️ My long limbs and kicks! And how graceful I am ♡” – Saki Akai, who will be facing Vertvixen at DDT Goes Hollywood and DARK Sheik at GCW vs. DDT.
“I won my very first KO-D openweight championship at the New York show in 2019, so [the U.S.] is a special country to me. This time, I’ll make sure to be at the Hollywood show as Universal champion and make it a success with my high-flying moves and these big buttocks of mine that are disproportionate to my upper half,” – #AndNew DDT Universal champion, Tetsuya Endo, who will be facing Joey Janela at DDT Goes Hollywood; in an effort to avenge his loss during the 2022 D-Oh Tournament, he teams with Jun Akiyama to take on Tony Deppen and Homicide at GCW vs. DDT.
“I hope that American pro wrestling fans can see how intense our wrestling is. Even in my 31st year as a wrestler, I’ll show you that I can still be aggressive,” – Jun Akiyama, who will be teaming with Eddie Kingston at DDT Goes Hollywood, and will be teaming with his BURNING mate, Endo, to take on Tony Deppen and Homicide at GCW vs DDT.
“America will be my first time overseas, so I’m very excited. I’ll tap out whoever my opponent may be. What I hope you remember is … my Cobra Twist and everything about me!” – KANON, who is teaming with DAMNATION T.A.’s Charisma (Daisuke Sasaki) to take on Eddie Kingston and Jun Akiyama at DDT Goes Hollywood.
“SEXY!! OH! SEXY!! SEXY!!!” Pheromones’ Yuki Iino, who along with Danshoku “Dandy” Dieno, will be facing DDT’s Peter Pan, President Sanshiro Takagi, and DDT/AEW star Michael Nakazawa at DDT Goes Hollywood; at GCW vs DDT, the Pheromones will be unleashed when they take on BUSSY (Allie Katch and EFFY).
“I won a young guys’ league in DDT to go to Hollywood. I have to show I’m the number one in the young guys. I learned Shorinji-kempo, which is a Japanese martial art. So, I want you to see my kick and punch.” – Takeshi Masada
If you haven’t done so, get your tickets before they sell out … these are two shows you won’t want to miss!
The Actwres girl’Z Star Brings Her “Evil Actress Spirit” To WrestleMania Weekend
TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY BY ISSA MARIE
THE “JAPANESE DRUNKEN Samurai” with the “Evil Actress Spirit” is headed to Hollywood, and you do not want to miss out on seeing her!
The former Act Yasukawa, better known for wrestling in STARDOM as a member of Oedo Tai, wants fans to meet ACT (pronounced AKUTO), the current incarnation of Yasukawa representing ACT Wrestling (popularly known as Actwres girl’Z, or AWG). “I am ready for the fans to meet this current and revolutionized version, ACT, who is very different from the past version most fans are familiar with.”
In pro wrestling, fans and analysts continually talk about the importance of an alternative. They reason that it makes sense to provide a product that is more appealing to a different demographic. Yet, when you look at most promotions—specifically in Japan—you will notice that nearly all of them share a similar structure in their training and business models.
And that is why AWG stands out. ACT wants to show the wrestling world the diverse talent that resides in the growing promotion, which, notably, differs from all others in one key way. “All of us are professional actresses,” she said. “Every expression, every move, we put our soul and heart to entertain the audience. The organization is still very new when compared to the other promotions, but there is so much potential and talent in every member. Everyone has what it takes to become a superstar. And, when we do come out to the states as a group, I want the US fans already looking forward to Actwres girl’Z.”
While that group trip hasn’t yet been realized, ACT is looking forward to the new experience of representing AWG over WrestleMania Weekend. “Previously, at Stardom, I traveled and wrestled as a member of Oedo Tai,” she recalls. “But this time, I am on my own, tagging with Aspyn Rose for the first time, as well as being a part of a four-way match against Brooke Havok, Kidd Bandit, and Billie Starkz. I have to prepare for the match, study their movements. I am looking forward to it.”
Indeed, with the latter four-way, Relentless Wrestling is starting off WrestleMania Weekend by giving us joshi fans a dream match we did not know we needed in our lives!
Speaking of dream matches, ACT is no stranger to them. When asked to name hers, she could not settle on a single bout. “I have to say, it was Yuzuki Aikawa, August 19, 2012, Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix [tournament] match,” she said. “Or versus Kairi Hojo (KAIRI), on January 26, 2014, the Wonder of Stardom championship belt match. I cannot decide, because both bouts gave me a special impression that I will never forget.”
For the fans that will be introduced to her via her many appearances during WrestleMania Week, ACT has a personal message: “Hello everyone, I’m ACT from Actwres girl’Z. I am the ‘Japanese Drunken Samurai,’ by loving the Japanese culture and its sake, as I am called the ‘Evil Actress Spirit.’ Please enjoy meeting my different personalities, in and out of the ring. If you enjoy meeting me and my pro wrestling, I would also like you to know Actwres girl’Z through me. Thank you very much!”
WrestleMania Week Schedule:
Pandemonium: Pro Wrestling 5:00 – 7:30 pm PDT Don Quixote Event Center
Relentless Wrestling 9:00 – 11:00 pm PDT Don Quixote Event Center
WrestleCon (appearance/signing) 9:00 am – 2:00 pm & 3:00 – 5:00 pm PDT Millennium Biltmore Hotel
WrestleCon (appearance/signing) 9:00 am – 2:00 pm PDT Millennium Biltmore Hotel
9:00 am – 2:00 pm PDT Millennium Biltmore Hotel
Merchandise for Sale
Red USA-Exclusive T-shirts Black USA-Exclusive T-shirts 4 different Act portraits Two Shots (Cheki) Act Yasukawa Lapel Pins Actwres girl’Z Lapel Pins Act Yasukawa Stickers Additional Actwres girl’Z portraits
TAKE THIS AS literally as you like, but I never saw it coming.
I certainly didn’t foresee JR Kratos heinously attacking me during a recent National Wrestling Alliance broadcast. Likewise, I could never have predicted the outpouring of fan support that followed.
On a February episode of the flagship program NWA Powerrr, “The Thrillbilly” Silas Mason again faced Kratos. It was the second match in a rivalry that kicked off amidst the NWA’s Champion Series.
During the first encounter, my loyalties were divided. Naturally, I wanted Silas to win. But, as Captain’s Assistant for Team Brickhouse, NWA World Women’s champion Kamille forced me to cheer on our team member Kratos. (Silas won anyway … yay!I)
When they again squared off, there were no distractions, as I rallied Knoxville behind its homegrown hero. In a rare moment of emotion, I slid into the ring, urging the ref to check Silas. That’s when the former NWA World tag team champion struck. It was violent and uncalled for; a thoroughly disgusting and unprovoked assault.
After pouncing me clean out of the ring, showing exactly the kind of Durn Dirty No-Gooder he truly is, Kratos secured a tainted victory. But that’s not where the story ends—not by a long shot!
At NWA’s Nuff Said in Tampa, “The Most Feared” became “the most bloodied!” When my baby sidestepped a huge splash attempt in the corner, Kratos knocked himself silly on a turnbuckle he exposed. In a pool of blood center-ring, Silas secured a gruesome, yet glorious, TKO victory to teach him a lesson!
Naturally, everyone loves a winner—and, with each match, it’s blatantly obvious we’re one step closer to NWA gold. Next in our crosshairs: cowardly NWA National Champion The Great Cyon and his geriatric father Austin Idol.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter if fans support our journey or not. Most are fickle and selfish when showing love. Someone wise once said, “Your approval is neither required nor desired.” And truer words have never been spoken.
However, I can understand the sudden about-face. “Big Daddy Thrill” and I are undeniable, the epitome of must-watch programming. How could anyone in NWA take their eyes off “6’6” Of Oooooh Yummy, Honey” and “The Lovely” Pollo Del Mar? The answer is simple: They can’t … and never could.
With that in mind, the sudden affection is easy to comprehend—but it’s equally clear the only thing that’s “changed” is how folks see us.
OVW’S GANG WARFARE
As one of today’s longest, continuously running promotions, Ohio Valley Wrestling saw greats like John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, and Cody Rhodes long before most of the world.
Now, between its popular YouTube series and extended streaming and broadcast agreements, more eyes than ever are on the hallowed halls of Davis Arena! The company’s recent growth was arguably built on the well-defined back of Jessie Godderz.
Whether for two reigns as IMPACT World tag champion or as a contestant and ongoing talking head for TV’s Big Brother, “Mr. PEC-tacular” is a name known to many. Those paying attention, though, recognize him as OVW’s crown jewel.
For much of 2022, Godderz and manager Shannon “The Dude” plotted to regain OVW’s National heavyweight title from “The Indian Lion” Mahabali Shera. Having finally succeeded, the dastardly duo devised a delightfully devious defense. Taking a page from greats of generations past, Godderz aligned himself with some of the company’s most established and promising competitors.
Flanked by multi-time OVW champion Adam Revolver, well-traveled veteran EC3, and upstart “Certified” Luke Kurtis, “The Dude” even convinced former rival Shera to join their “Godderz Gang.” With a protective phalanx of beef, Godderz and the belt seem very secure!
Together, these men have run roughshod over opponents, collecting myriad titles and dishing out punishment along the way. Not since Josh Ashcraft’s long-since-dismantled Legacy of Brutality has an OVW faction proved so devastating.
For Godderz, perhaps it’s a means to an end: protecting that coveted gold. For others—notably Kurtis, who, as OVW’s impressive Rush division champion, shines exceptionally bright in the mix—I suspect it’s a launching pad for much, much more.
For the promotion, though, it’s a testament to its motto. With OVW, you truly do “See The Superstars Of Tomorrow Today.”
AEW’S LETHAL COMBINATION
It’s taken far too long for Jay Lethal to find his footing in All Elite Wrestling. The Ring of Honor legend floundered amid less-than-compelling outings upon his arrival. His partnership with Sonjay Dutt and “One In A Billion” Satnam Singh also seemed questionable.
Enter Jeff Jarrett.
Despite their performances as Ric Flair’s seemingly hand-selected final opponents, I was initially skeptical. Now, with time to gel, the pairing is hitting its stride in an apparent quest for the highly competitive division’s tag team gold.
On the February 22 Dynamite, Jarrett and Lethal earned a multi-team shot at champs The Gunns, which took place at Revolution on March 6. As challenging as it is for anyone to truly stand out in AEW, Lethal and Jarrett are masters of the game. Having each won countless titles across nearly every promotion going today, both should have felt like major individual acquisitions for AEW in their own right … yet neither did.
But now, together, they inch closer to a deserved AEW spotlight with each outing. When all is said and done, the partnership just might be a stroke of genius for both.
NATURAL VIBES POWERHOUSE, BIG BOSS Shimizu, is on his first U.S. tour. Dragongate’s chameleon, due to his ability to transform and embody every personality he has been given since his debut, is hoping to show the new fans who are getting to meet him for the first time what he is all about. “I am hopeful that the fans will be able to feel my passion and see my strength through my pro wrestling,” Shimizu said last Saturday at MLW’s #SuperFight.
That passion was felt on February 3 at #GardenStateV, in his match against Robert Martyr, and, more notably, on February 4, at the historic 2300 (ECW) Arena. At the latter show, when NATURAL VIBES’ music was cut in the earlier part of their entrance, Kzy (singing acapella) and Boss got the crowd in sync to start the party.
Growing up a fan of WCW and ECW, BOSS was more than excited to face the Full Blooded Italians (FBI) in defense of the Open the Twin Gate championship that night. “Sharing the ring with Little Guido is a dream come true,” said Shimizu.
As he was getting ready for the match, we had to keep the conversation short, but I managed to ask the important questions: Since arriving in the U.S., Shimizu has enjoyed Popeye’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich the most; he believes the that the finals for Dragongate’s #ReydeParejas2023 will be NATURAL VIBES’ Jacky Funky Kamei & Jason Lee vs The Strong Machines, J & F.
In closing, Shimizu has a message for you and other PWI readers: “Since it is my first time wrestling in the U.S., I will ensure every one of my matches is memorable and enjoyable for the fans! Thank you for your support during my first U.S. tour and I look forward to meeting you all at the venues.”
U.S. Tour Schedule
02-09 New Texas Pro Wrestling (Seminar & Match) 02-18 WrestleRave (Texas) 02-25 MEW (Alabama) 02-26 ETU (New Jersey)
BIG BOSS Shimizu vs KAI, Open the Dream Gate Title Match, March 6, 2022
Highlights BIG BOSS Shimizu vs BxB Hulk, Z-Brats vs NATURAL VIBES Singles Match, October 10, 2022
“IT’S PANDEMONIUM!” THESE were the iconic words often uttered by the late, great Gorilla Monsoon when things on WWF television kicked up a notch. And while Gorilla, sadly, isn’t with us any longer, “Pandemonium” can still be found in the wrestling business. In particular, we see it on the West Coast, where a new promotion has adopted the moniker as a catch-all description for the action it offers.
Pandemonium Pro Wrestling is a Los Angeles-based wrestling promotion that debuted in 2021. In recent months, it has gotten increasingly serious about offering a product that captures the cinematic elements of Hollywood blockbuster films and merges them with professional wrestling. If you think of Lucha Underground and Wrestling Society X, then you are on the right track.
The growing company features competitors from all over the world, from West Coast sensations like Kidd Bandit and the promotion’s current Gen Z champion, Wicked Wickett, to notable talent from major companies such as AEW’s Fuego Del Sol, IMPACT Wrestling’s Alan Angels, NJPW’s Yuya Uemura, and even former WWE Intercontinental champion John Hennigan (performing here as “Johnny Hollywood.”
The mission and vision, as laid out by the promotion itself, is for Pandemonium Pro Wrestling to showcase the talent of Los Angeles and the surrounding counties and place them into an environment with the cinematic feel of a Marvel film.
“Professional wrestling is one of the highest forms of performance art in the world,” noted PPW director/editor/wrestler, Kidd Bandit. “We wanted a company that departs from the sports-based presentation of pro wrestling and focuses on its parallels with a stage-play spectacle.”
This more theatrical approach can even be seen in the job titles given to the key people behind PPW. In addition to Bandit, the company lists Asan Washington as its CEO and Executive Producer and camera operator Hoby Lasko as its Cinematographer.
“We put a lot of emphasis on the larger-than-life personalities, the cinematography of the action, and the narrative of the stories,” said Bandit. And it’s this focus on production and visual elements that may help the promotion stand apart from the pack on a crowded indie scene.
Holiday in Hollywood marked the IWTV debut of PPW, and it was featured as our “Spotlight Card” in the January 30 edition of the PWI Weekly. The event, filmed on December 4, 2022, at the Jaxx Theatre in the heart of Hollywood, was a blend of everything that makes Pandemonium Pro Wrestling one of the hottest tickets in Tinseltown. From the high-impact fast-paced action of the opening lucha bout between Serpentico and Wicked Wickett to the impressive showcase of NJPW’s Young Lions, The DKC and Yuya Uemura, Holiday in Hollywood had a little something for most wrestling tastes.
The main event of that show was The Hollywood Classic: a hyper-competitive ten-person gauntlet match for the “Ticket To Hollywood” contract. Ishmael Vaughn won the contest, earning a future shot at either the dotTV championship or the Gen Z championship at any time.
With a broadcast deal that sees the product showcased on IWTV, Pandemonium Pro Wrestling is rolling ahead toward another big show on March 29.
“Our next event is called ‘dotTV Vol. 4: Best Damn Thing,'” revealed Kidd Bandit. “It will be headlined by the Rumble Riot Match for the Pandemonium Pro championship, as well as a dotTV title bout between Johnny Hollywood and Masha Slamovich. And the whole thing will be available for viewing on IWTV VOD.”
To paraphrase Horace Greeley, if you are looking for something a little different in the wrestling sphere right now, go West, young person! Because, in Hollywood, it’s Pandemonium out there.
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